The Spectrum of Long-Term Behavioral Disturbances and Provided Care After Traumatic Brain Injury

Marlies Timmer, Bram Jacobs, Marleen C. Schonherr, Joke Spikman, Joukje van der Naalt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Introduction: Behavioral disturbances are found in 50-60% of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors with an enormous impact on daily functioning and level of recovery. However, whether typical profiles can be distinguished and how these relate to provided care is unclear. The purpose of this study is to specify the characteristics of behavioral disturbances in patients with various severity of TBI and the impact on functional outcome. Furthermore, the pathways of care after hospital discharge for patients and their care givers are analyzed.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study comprising 226 patients with mild TBI (mTBI; n = 107) and moderate-to-severe TBI (mod/sevTBI; n = 119) treated at the outpatient clinic and/or rehabilitation center of our university hospital between 2010 and 2015. Inclusion criteria were: behavioral disturbances as determined with the Differential Outcome Scale and age >= 16 years. Functional outcome was determined by the Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended and return to work (RTW) at six months to one year post-injury. Behavioral impairments and pathway of care were derived from medical files and scored according to predefined criteria.

Results: Overall 24% of patients showed serious behavioral disturbances; three times higher in mod/sevTBI (35%) compared to mTBI (13%). mTBI patients mostly showed irritation (82%) and anger (49%), while mod/sevTBI patients mostly showed irritation (65%) and disinhibition (55%). Most (92%) patients returned home, half of the patients did not RTW. Deficits in judgment and decision-making increased risk of no RTW 10-fold. One in ten patients was (temporarily) admitted to a nursing home or psychiatric institution. 13% Of caregivers received support for dealing with impairments of patients and 13% of the mTBI and 17% of the mod/sevTBI patients experienced relational problems.

Conclusions: The spectrum of behavioral disturbances differs between TBI severity categories and serious behavioral disturbances are present in a quarter of patients. Only half of the patients resumed work regardless of severity of injury suggesting that particularly the presence and not the severity of long-term behavioral disturbances interferes with RTW. Most patients returned home despite these behavioral disturbances. These findings underline the importance of early identification and appropriate treatment of behavioral disturbances in TBI patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number246
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 7-Apr-2020


  • behavioral disturbances
  • traumatic brain injury
  • outcome
  • return to work
  • discharge destinations
  • caregivers
  • MILD

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